How Places Work

Ongoing until March 2008

"The way to understand architecture and public space is to experience them." Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment


How Places Work is a CABE initiative in partnership with the Architecture Centre Network. It is a programme of educational visits to buildings and public spaces for school children. The two-year programme involves students and teachers in secondary schools and is aimed at key stage 3 (years 7-9). Shape East has organized this year’s visits with three Cambridge schools and one in Great Yarmouth, where we received additional support from Inspire East.

"If we can inform and inspire a new generation of young people about the impact that buildings and spaces have on their lives, they will play their part in shaping the future environment that they will live in." John Sorrell CBE, Chair, CABE

The How Places work project reflects our belief that design should be approached through an understanding of the need for both functional and aesthetic qualities in design. Architecture is not part of the current curriculum so this concept has been a new experience for many students. A group of enthusiastic 'inspirers', experts who know and understand the built environment, work with the young people helping to make their visit to an inspirational building a unique and memorable occasion. The visits are designed to be very inactive events, where young people have the opportunity to explore, ask questions and gain some understanding from experts as to why they feel so passionate about good quality design.

In November a total of 270 young people from Chesterton Community College and Cottenham Village College visited the Cambridge University Sidgwick Site. The students were divided into groups and spent a half day looking at the history of building design and aesthetics in the archaeological museum, the 'architectural zoo', buildings by famous architects on site and the master planning of the site since its inception. More detailed information about the Sidgwick Site can be found on The University of Cambridge Planning and building Web Site
"Encouraging children and young people to learn about their local built environment helps them engage with the past, present and future of our communities". David Lammy, Minister for Culture

Our inspirers for these two events were: Professor Peter Carolin, a practising architect and former Head of the University of Cambridge Department of Architecture, Nicholas Champkins, architect, Allies and Morrison, who designed the Criminology Building, Tim Holt, Deputy Head of Communications, Cambridge University who arranged the event for the University, Sarah Morrison of Freeland Rees Roberts, Christina Riggs, Education Officer at the Museum of classical Archaeology Dept. We were accompanied by Nichola Rizzo, Education Advisor, CABE.

Please see the University News page for a description of our endeavours!

On a very cold and rainy day in December, Shape East and sixty pupils of Lynn Grove High School, Great Yarmouth, braved the weather and visited Great Yarmouth Power station. Inspire East and the East of England Development Agency are working to regenerate this area and were keen to give additional support to Shape. The new power station in Great Yarmouth was looking for opportunities to obtain closer links with young people in its local community.

Our Inspirer, Roger Wilson of GE Infra, Energy, who manages the power station spoke to groups of young people to explain how the station worked. An extract of his presentation has been included below. The students then had the opportunity to tour the high Tec building to see it in action.

"The control room looked like it was out of James Bond…" How Places Work Participant.

Emma Bennett, project manager at Shape East said that "it was obvious how much the students enjoyed their visits and hopefully they will have gained a better understanding of how these buildings operate, what makes good design and of the role of the building within the community."

How Places Work will be continued in the classroom. The project encourages teachers and young people to apply what they have learnt to other spaces or places that have meaning to them. Built environment education is cross curricular and can be used to develop a wide variety of skills.